Category Archives: All News

Dear Officials:

Please be advised that the purpose of this letter is to express the Somerset County Commissioners’ opposition to additional industrial scale wind development and its associated facilities in Somerset County or the Moosehead Lake Region for the following reasons:

  1. The adverse visual impact of 500+ foot wind turbines and associated transmission required for interconnection and other supportive facilities on the world class scenic beauty of Somerset County, the Moosehead Lake Region and its surrounding communities.
  2. The permanent destruction of ridgelines along with the adjacent development areas caused by the construction of over two hundred turbine pads, hundreds of miles of access roads, bridle path transmission corridors, plus utility substations and facility control centers.
  3. The adverse impact on dark/night sky by turbine aviation navigation lighting. The Moosehead Region is renowned for its dark/night sky and has already been effected by the aviation lighting from the Bingham Wind facility 26 miles to the southwest.
  4. The adverse economic and visual impact of the currently proposed industrial wind facilities in the Moosehead Lake Region and surrounding towns and townships. The proposed projects are: NRG’s Somerset Wind, EverPower’s Northwest Wind,Next Era’s Alder and Moose Wind and EDF’s Timberline Wind. Together they could install 231 turbines covering hundreds of thousands of acres.
  5. The potential to permanently alter ridgeline aquafers due to excessive blasting to create 60 foot eraters for turbine pads. Many of these aquafers supply sensitive ecosystems. The Moosehead Lake Region is home to exceptional trout ponds and streams and highly diverse wildlife populations including Canadian Lyn*, Bald Eagles and the endangered Bicknell’s Thrush. Disruption to these habitats could permanently alter the region’s wildlife populations.
  6. The danger turbines present regarding the many gallons of flammable liquids contained in each turbine and the very real possibility of a fire being ignited in these rernote areas. These areas do not have the resources or the manpower to fight a large fire should one occur in one of these remote locations.
  7. The devastating economic impact on local tourism economies throughout the region and surrounding communities. The Moosehead Lake Region is the largest conkibutor of tourism revenue for Somerset County and a large contributor to Maine’s economy. Tourism is one of the largest employers and revenue generators in Somerset County.
  8. Widespread concern from residents of Somerset County and specifically the Moosehead Lake Region, both full-time and seasonal, for their way of life, their businesses, and their property values.
  9. The results of a recent (May 2017) tourism study underwritten by the John Muir Trust sighting travelers are unwilling to visit areas heavily impacted by wind farms and utility transmission lines. The study states that 55o/o of respondents would not visit an area subjected to large scale wind farms and their associated utility transmission.

Therefore, the Somerset County Commissioners hereby request that no further industrial wind facilities be permitted or approved in Somerset County and the Moosehead Lake Region. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me.

Respectfully,
Dawn M. DiBlasi, Esq.
Somerset County Administrator

Click here to see full letter.

For many in the audience of presentation in Rockwood Strip on Wednesday, that answer was yes.

ROCKWOOD STRIP — More than 100 people packed the Rockwood Community Center Wednesday afternoon to help answer the question raised by a group opposed to proposed wind farms — will Massachusetts energy policy destroy the Moosehead Lake region.

The answer for many was loud and clear: “Save our mountains — No Wind Farms.”

Residents rose following a Power Point presentation by Richard McDonald, president of the anti-wind citizen group Saving Maine, and a member of the steering committee Moosehead Region Futures to voice concerns over the future of the rich aquifer that feeds Moosehead Lake and the long, deep Shirley Bog if the ridge lines are blasted away to make room for industrial wind turbines.

Residents said they feared the 500-foot tall turbines would adversely affect the aviation tradition on the lake, culminating every fall with the Greenville Fly-in.

“There’s a lot at stake,” McDonald told the group. “The view and the wilderness experience. There’s a future at stake if you want to develop tourism in the area, the turbines pose a serious threat to the region.”

Scott Hinton, who described himself as “just a schmuck from Greenville” said the fact that the pristine aquifer and the traditional Fly-In could be in jeopardy are frightening thoughts. He said the roads that will be needed to bring in the giant turbine blades — larger than the ones in place in Bingham — would ruin the region.

“How could you guarantee the aquifer would not be damaged,” he said. “Also the aviators, I can’t imagine what it would do to flying, which is one of our big deals. It’s a very big weekend.”

Clyde MacDonald said he worries about turbine fires because each unit is basically a “350-foot-high gas tank.” He called on state political leaders to “fight the uphill battle.”

A local woman, Karen Elwood, rose to ask if the Forest Society of Maine, which holds some of the easements to area land, could step in and put pressure on the Legislature to stop wind power in the Moosehead Lake region.

Chris King, also of Greenville, assured her and others that “there are things we can do to fight it” based on Maine law.

“It’s not all doom and gloom,” he said. “There is a process.”

The short term gains, as is seen in Bingham with that wind project generating annual payments to the town, is low compared to the long term loss, McDonald said. He said it would be a loss of a way of life and of the livelihoods of area residents.

Greenville and the Moosehead Lake region is a tourist destination, with lake shore businesses, lodging, restaurants, shops and all the supporting businesses that fuel the local economy, he said.

There are more than 200 new wind turbines proposed in rural Somerset County just west of Greenville, according to McDonald.

McDonald said that while permits for new wind projects have yet to be filed, the prospect of 500-foot tall turbines along ridges in the remote townships of Johnson Mountain, Chase Stream and Misery, is not welcome.

He said the Somerset Wind project has been proposed by NRG, a large renewable energy and power producer with offices in Texas and New Jersey. There also is what is being called the EverPower Project, along the Big Moose Mountain ridge line near Big Indian Pond, he said. Each would have 26 or 28 wind turbines, generating between 78 and 93 megawatts of power.

He said a company called NextEra also has proposed two or three large industrial wind projects in the Eustis area of Franklin County.

All together, wind projects could result in 204 new wind turbines generating 703 megawatts of power.

The driving force, he said earlier this week, is to win the bid for a 20-year power purchase agreement with the state of Massachusetts utilities for more than 100 wind turbines. The projects were among the 24 bids received by New England Clean Energy RFP, part of a group of agencies and electric utilities in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island that issued a request for proposals for energy projects last November to help them meet their clean-energy goals and fight climate change.

He said if the Massachusetts project does not include Somerset County, then the next round from Connecticut would follow.

Another important part of the plan, McDonald said, would be a 145-mile transmission line by Central Maine Power Co. to get the power to Massachusetts from west of Eustis to Johnson Mountain, The Forks, West Forks — right over the Dead River — then down to Moscow, Pittsfield and finally to southern Maine. He said it would be 1,400 feet wide.

David Gaier, the NRG East Region senior director and spokesman in New Jersey, said Monday that the Somerset Wind project is still in its infancy.

“Last year NRG acquired the rights to build the Somerset Wind project, but at this point we’re only in the early project development stage,” Gaier said in an email Monday afternoon. “We’re looking forward to continuing the development process in the coming months and we’ll make more information available when appropriate.”

John Carroll, a spokesman for Central Maine Power Co., said Monday that he is familiar with the Somerset Wind project proposed by NRG. He said CMP put in bids for the “green power” corridor connection from northern Franklin County and Quebec, through Somerset County to Massachusetts.

A coalition of utilities and state agencies in southern New England failed to select any Maine-based wind or transmission projects to meet the region’s clean-energy goals last December, but projects that didn’t win already were looking ahead to a second chance, and an even bigger RFP process, the Portland Press Herald reported.

McDonald said Maine is being “set up” as be the power station for southern New England.

“Moosehead Region Futures has been doing this for two years and we’ve been very vocal about our concerns — our stand is that we want to defeat these projects,” McDonald said earlier this week. “You have to think about real estate; you got to think about the impact this could have on property values. Going to these areas such as Moosehead and seeing an industrialization on the scale that they’re talking about with these projects and the transmission corridor, I can see the Moosehead region taking a very heavy hit.”

Somerset County Administrator Dawn DiBlasi said Monday that county commissioners do not have a vote on placement of new wind farms, but can give a thumbs up or thumbs down consensus. She said McDonald and his group are opposed to the wind towers and commissioners know that.

Construction of the $420 million 62-turbine Bingham wind farm started in July 2015. The project generates about 185 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the equivalent of 60,000 homes. The turbines are spread across high ridges in Bingham, Mayfield Township and Kingsbury Plantation and 120 people worked on the project, both at the site and away from the site.

Opponents of the Bingham project have said wind farms detract from the scenery in rural Maine. DEP regulations state that scenic impact is only a consideration in evaluating a wind project if turbines fall within 8 miles of the area of concern.

By Doug Harlow, Staff Writer for centralmaine.com

Original Article 8/16/17, centralmaine.com: www.centralmaine.com/2017/08/16/more-than-100-people-ask-if-massachusetts-energy-policy-will-destroy-moosehead-lake-region

Firms won’t be penalized if their turbines kill as many as 4,200 each year.

The bald eagle, a national symbol that is generally protected from harm, won’t be flying so high next year.

The Obama administration on Wednesday finalized a rule that lets wind-energy companies operate high-speed turbines for up to 30 years — even if means killing or injuring thousands of the birds and their golden eagle cousins.

Under the new rule, wind companies and other power providers will not face a penalty if they kill or injure as many as 4,200 bald eagles each year, nearly four times the current limit. Deaths of the more rare golden eagles would be allowed without penalty so long as companies minimize losses by taking steps such as fixing power poles to reduce the risk of electrocution.

The new rule will conserve eagles while also spurring development of a pollution-free energy source intended to ease global warming, a cornerstone of President Obama’s energy plan, said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe.

“No animal says America like the bald eagle,” Ashe said in a statement. He said the Fish and Wildlife Service is trying to balance energy development with eagle conservation.

There are about 143,000 bald eagles in the United States. Their numbers had dropped below 500 nesting pairs in the 1960s because of hunting, habitat destruction and food contamination. (Jeff Roberson/AP)
Wind power has increased significantly since Obama took office, and wind turbines as tall as 30-story buildings are rising across the country. The wind towers have spinning rotors as wide as a passenger jet’s wingspan, and blades reach speeds of up to 170 miles per hour at the tips, creating tornado-like vortexes.

The surge in wind power has generally been well received in the environmental community, but bird deaths — and eagle deaths in particular — have caused disagreements.

The birds are not endangered species but are protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The laws prohibit killing, selling or otherwise harming eagles, their nests or eggs without a permit.

It’s unclear what toll wind energy companies are having on eagle populations, although the Fish and Wildlife Service said as many 545 golden eagles a year are killed by collisions with wind towers, power lines, buildings, cars and trucks. Thousands more are killed by gunshots and poisonings.

Reporting of eagle deaths is voluntary, and the Interior Department refuses to release the information.

The Fish and Wildlife Service estimates there are about 143,000 bald eagles in the United States, and 40,000 golden eagles. Ashe called recovery of the bald eagle “one of our greatest national conservation achievements.”

The rule is set to take effect in mid-January, days before Obama leaves office. President-elect Donald Trump could change the rule or scrap it, but that process would probably take months or years.

Michael Hutchins of the American Bird Conservancy said Wednesday that his group has “some serious concerns” that the new rule will not do not enough to sustain populations of threatened eagles.

The National Audubon Society was also disappointed.

“As an organization we think a 30-year term is unreasonable, especially when we’re still learning about the impacts of wind and other technology on wildlife,” said Sarah Greenberger, vice president for conservation.

“It becomes that much more critical to work together because we feel strongly we should be making a transition to renewable energy,” she said. “There’s a way to do that in a way that’s beneficial for our planet.”

In 2008, Governor John Baldacci worked with a very cooperative Legislature to craft a special zoning and permitting process that significantly aided developers seeking to capitalize on Maine’s rural resources for large-scale wind power projects.

Developers promised massive “green” benefits for Maine’s energy generation, a huge economic impact with hundreds of high-paying jobs, all while showering small rural towns and unorganized territories and county governments with millions of dollars through the Wind Power Law’s Community Benefits provision. These enticements lured government officials to secure TIF — Tax Increment Financing — arrangements that deferred tax assessments because in the end, these communities would still reap large sums of new revenue. The TIF was needed to “make the project more enticing to investors.”

With momentum mounting, and a quiver full of rebuttal arrows to beat back any challenges, proposed wind power projects rapidly increased across the state as well as in rural Hancock County.

We have since learned in the last nine years that the majority of the wind power generated here is sent out of state and has had little impact on reducing our own oil and gas-fueled electricity generation consumption; that huge transmission lines must be constructed to move the power out of state; and that the promised jobs are primarily the same skilled contractors and crews that move from project to project with few, if any, local jobs created. In Hancock County’s Bull Hill wind project, fewer than 10 employees now man all of the functions. Not quite the hundreds of jobs promised by developers.

We also have learned that wind power companies change hands — and names — a lot, yet the principal players may not change at all. Hancock County’s First Wind was consumed by SunEdison, “the world’s largest renewable energy company.” A division of SunEdison, TerraForm Power, then consumed First Wind as SunEdison now works through bankruptcy. And not surprisingly, former Governor Baldacci is now vice chairman of Avangrid, the parent company of Central Maine Power, and the second largest wind power company in the United States.

Most relevant locally is the latest revelation that Hancock County will not reap the promised property tax revenues worked out in the original TIF agreement with First Wind for the Bull Hill project near Eastbrook in Township 16. The original agreement outlined tax revenues to Hancock County of $4.7-million over a 20-year period. Valuation issues, changing tax rates and ownership changes combined to all but guarantee that the county will see a vastly reduced amount of tax revenue during the outlined time frame.

Given the consequences thus far realized from the faulty positions proposed, what is to say that the Community Benefits payments are assured? Currently, Hancock County receives $400,000 a year, which has been shared with nonprofit groups and was this year used to lower property taxes. Since all citizens pay for power and all property owners pay taxes to the county, this money should only be used for lowering the various communities’ overall tax burden.

Wind power continues to play a role in meeting our renewable energy objectives, yet Maine’s wind power law, as Governor LePage has consistently proclaimed, needs to be drastically changed. Several massive-scale projects are under consideration across the state — which would send more power to Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts and require that huge transmission corridors be constructed. Dozens of Maine’s rural communities and townships have opted out of the fast-track wind power zone (which streamlines permitting approvals for wind developers). The new Legislature is scheduled to review the reviled Renewable Portfolio Standards program — work that even environmentalists agree needs to be modified. Particularly egregious is that current legislation totally disenfranchises residents and taxpayers of unorganized territories from any say concerning wind projects in their area.

Warren Buffett stated that wind power projects “don’t make any sense without the tax credits.” Perhaps the whole TIF and Community Benefits inducement package should be abandoned for straight-face, up-and-down viability for future wind power projects.

Original article: http://www.ellsworthamerican.com/opinions/wind-power-promises-failing/

From the Kennebec Journal Op-Ed piece: http://www.centralmaine.com/2016/09/24/are-we-selling-our-birthright/

I note with concern the Sept. 16 article by Tux Turkel, “New owner arrives amid fight over wind.” My concern is that the 26-turbine wind power project extending from Parlin Pond east along Misery Ridge, described in the article as going forward with a new developer, is only one of two massively disruptive projects under development in this unspoiled region of our irreplaceable forestlands. The second proposes to place another 26 wind generation towers overlooking Indian Pond.

Anyone who has found peace and recreation in the forests between The Forks and Jackman should take an interest in the permitting and regulation of these projects, which as Turkel states in the article, will generate electricity to be sold in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut.

Except for that power lost along the proposed 26.5-mile transmission corridor cut through the forest to link with the CMP station at The Forks, not 1 watt will light or heat a home in Maine. I refer readers to the website of Moosehead Region Futures Committee, www.mooseheadregionfutures.com, for detailed specifications of the two projects under consideration.

As paper mills close and the forest products industry scales back, tourism and outdoor recreation industry is major life force in the Maine economy. These projects, if permitted and no matter how carefully constructed, will alter the experience of this huge portion of forestland, an asset that, of all states on the Eastern seaboard, only Maine has manage to preserve.

Generation of wind may be clean and renewable, but should Mainers surrender their birthright to send electricity — and the profits from its sale — to other states?

David Hedrick

Waterville

The recent sale of a wind power development site in Aroostook County to out-of-state investors has an anti-wind development group in Somerset County concerned that a similar scenario could unfold for a planned project in the Moosehead Lake area.

A federal judge last week approved the sale of SunEdison’s King Pine project, a planned 600-megawatt wind farm in southern Aroostook County, to San Francisco-based Pattern Energy for $26.5 million, according to federal court filings.

The sale is the latest move by SunEdison, which declared bankruptcy in April, to rid itself of its Maine assets. In 2015, the company also sold its Bingham and Oakfield wind projects to a division of J.P. Morgan and withdrew a Department of Environmental Protection application for a project in Hancock County.

A 26-turbine wind farm has been planned by SunEdison in the Misery Ridge area of Somerset County, near Moosehead Lake.

Terraform Power, a subsidiary of SunEdison, owns four other projects in Maine – in Mars Hill, Stetson, Blue Hill and Rollins.

John Lamontagne, a spokesman for SunEdison in Massachusetts, said that he could not speculate on the possible sale of other SunEdison projects in response to concerns from a board member of the Moosehead Region Futures Committee, an anti-wind group dedicated to fighting wind development in the Moosehead Lake area.

Richard McDonald, a board member of the Moosehead Regions Future Committee and president of the anti-wind group Saving Maine, said there’s “a ton of uncertainty” surrounding the Somerset County wind farm.

“We’re looking at a project that would permanently alter the landscape and the natural setting of one of the most important tourism-based regions in the state,” McDonald said.

McDonald said groups he’s affiliated with are both opposed to the Somerset County wind farm proposal.

The Moosehead committee has previously said the proposed Somerset wind development is a “threat to the region’s tourism-based economy and the livelihoods of thousands of local residents.”

“They could sell these assets for 20 cents on the dollar and we could have a whole other set of circumstances with another out-of-state wind developer coming in,” McDonald said, referring to the King Pine project sale to the California-based firm.

Weyerhaeuser, a timber company that owns the land where the Somerset Wind project is being proposed, last month dropped opposition to some communities in the area leaving a fast-track wind development zone that would have made it easier for the wind farm to be constructed. But a spokesman for Weyerhauser said last month that the decision to opt out of the expedited zoning area is not related to the development of the Somerset Wind project and would not have an impact on it.

An application for the Somerset Wind Project has not yet been filed with the Department of Environmental Protection.